“Kill all white people.”
The genocidal threat the short statement conveys is chilling.
The fact that it’s attributed to Fredrick Demond Scott, the suspect in the killings of five middle-aged white men in Kansas City, intensifies the horror. The potential implications are obvious. Were the victims randomly attacked? Or singled out for death because they were white males?
If the killings in which Scott is a suspect are in fact hate crimes, they must be labeled as such. But it’s too soon to know for sure.
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The Jackson County prosecutor and detectives are right to proceed with caution instead of making assumptions about the motivation behind the killings. They apparently don’t have enough evidence yet to draw conclusions.
Scott made those haunting threats three years ago while he was a student at Center Alternative School.
“I want to shoot the school up Columbine style.” “Kill myself.” “Kill all white people,” reads a quote from his municipal record.
From a prosecutor’s standpoint, the fact that a suspect once made such frightening statements doesn’t necessarily prove that anti-white hate was the motivation in the two killings that Scott has been charged with, or the other three killings where he is still just a suspect.
But regardless of how these crimes are labeled, the killer struck fear into the heart of our city.
The five killings, four of which were on or near Indian Creek Trail, terrorized Kansas City. As the cases were reported one after another, the thought that someone was stalking victims along the popular pathway spread anxiety across the area. People suddenly feared the trail, a haven where they once felt safe. A suspected serial killer can set the whole city on edge.
Hate crimes have the same effect. By targeting a group based on a bias, a culprit sends a message to anyone fitting the profile: You could be next.
It’s why, when labeled as hate crimes, these violent acts result in harsher penalties.
Still, as Kansas City reels from the possibility that a racist serial killer might have roamed our streets, we must remain focused on the facts of the case. And those investigating the killings have suggested there is still more to learn.
Black perpetrators do commit crimes against white victims. But these are a relatively small percentage of hate crimes. Statistics show the opposite is more often true: white people as the racially motivated perpetrators and blacks as the victims.
And far more frequently, people commit crimes against victims of the same race.
When it comes to race and crime, we too often are quick to rush to judgment and to draw conclusions that fit an imagined narrative. Regardless of how prosecutors ultimately label these crimes, the trail killings were horrific and cold-blooded.
If they were hate crimes, we will not hesitate to call them exactly that. But for now, prosecutors and detectives must follow where the facts lead them.